The Oriental derby surely is one of such special Occasions where members of the Oriental family battle for pride and bragging rights.
It is a stage to showcase and brandish the best that the Southeast has to Offer in terms of her rich football heritage which started as far back as the UK tourists of 1949. Titus Okere the wing wizard made history to become the first Nigerian player to play professional football in the UK in 1953 with Swindon, two years il later in 1955 Teslim Balogun joined Peterborough United.
Incidentally , Titus Okere hailed from Ngor Okpala LGA in the present Imo State . He also scored one of the goals in Nigeria’s first international game against Sierra Leone that ended 2 nil in Nigeria’s favor.
Young Titus attended St Cyprians Anglican School Portharcourt, Kalabari National College and the Okrika Grammar School.
Okere’s mercurial skills serenaded the great Zik of Africa who got him to play for ZIk Athletic Club, he will go on to Captain Lagos Railway in 1948 a year before Joining the UK Tourists of 1949 which had the likes of Skipper Richard Ewa Henshaw Dan Amobi Anyiam,(the man the Owerri Stadium is named after) Teslim Balogun, Peter Anieke ,Mesembe Otu, Isaac Akioye , Justin Onwudiwe ,Sam Ibiam to mention but a few.
In a bid cement the football heritage of the South East ,the Director of Sport for the East Central State Dr Jeremiah Enyiazu in 1970 conceived Rangers International the first son of the Oriental Family.
layed a philosophical foundation which became the bedrock, and Ethos for the team. He created the team’s motto, “through difficulties to the heights”, a stark reminder of the team’s origins [from the ashes of the Nigerian civil war] The motto became evident in the years ahead as Rangers showed her grit and resilience crushing her opposition as they became the pride of every Igbo man of that era.
Six years later Enyeazu will create another young side named “The Spartans” and shortly after that created “The Falcons” that metamophorzed into Enyimba international of today.
Rangers were imperious in the 70’s and 80’s , Iwuanyanwu Nationale (former Spartans) were dominant in the 80’s and 90’s while the last son in the family became the most prolific ,dominant in the 2000’s, winning the African Champions league back to back as well as the NPFL title 8 times.
The Oriental Derby between Heartland and Enyimba is absolutely Box Office because of the intense rivalry and proximity.
In the past Enyimba used to be a team that fed Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Rangers as it were , always selling her best legs to her neighbors .
The story took a dramatic twist in 1999 /2000 with the emergence of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu as Governor of Abia State. Kalu changed the narrative and turned Enyimba into giants of African Football.
On Saturday 26th February 2022, History will be made as Heartland take on Enyimba international in a pulsating Oriental derby. Two years ago on Jan 15 2020 Heartland beat Enyimba at thier backyard by 2 goals to nil. On that day, Architect Chukwueka Obioma and Sodiq Abubakar accounted for the goals as Heartland silenced Enyimba in ABA.
This weekend at the Iconic Dan Anyiam Stadium,Chukwuemeka Obioma and Sodiq will be playing against Heartland alongside Pascal Eze Former Heartland Deputy Skipper.
Heartland has gone four games without defeat and will be turbo charged to triumph against Enyimba who are struggling to score goals in recent times.
Tactically the game pits the vastly experienced Erasmus Onuh against the young Finidi George. Enyimba has failed to beat Heartland since 2020 and the Naze Millionaires will be hoping to continue that run this Saturday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium.
The derby is also an opportunity for the players to stand up and be counted, a chance to write thier name in gold.
September 2011 Chinedu Efugh scored the only goal when Heartland beat Enyimba in the Fa Cup final to break her 18year trophy less jinx. Great players have tasted the waters for both teams. Uche Okechukwu , Vincent Enyeama , Chijioke Ejiogu, Nelson Ogbonna, ThankGOd Ike, Godwin Paul, Chukwuemeka Obioma, Sodiq Abubakar,Mangut Mbwas , Pascal Eze ,Obinna Obiaka, Ifeanyi Onuigbo, Andrew Abalogu ,Ndidi Anumunu to mention but a few.
Who will be the” Hero” of Saturday’s epic battle?
Who will write his name on the sands of time so that his name will not be forgotten
Aha gi efula!